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Do I need to use monofilament thread for invisible machine applique?

by Debbie Richard
(Katy, Texas, USA)


I am new to this style of machine applique and would like to use only cotton thread throughout my quilt and don't care for monofilament thread.

Can I use cotton in both the top and the bottom of my machine?


Debbie Richard


Hi Debbie!

One of the hardest things about writing directions is providing the information, the directions and tools, that worked for the writer (me, in this case), and yet empowering the reader to use and modify those same instructions into something that works best for the her.

So I welcome your question and am so glad that you asked it!

My reasons for using monofilament are twofold:
  • The stitches, themselves, almost disappear into the fold of the applique shape

  • At most, you'll only need two spools—one clear, one smoke—to stitch your whole invisible machine applique project

Choosing a cotton thread...

First and foremost, I recommend that you test all of your thread choices on sample shapes made from the fabrics in your quilt. That way you can test both the colors and tension settings. It won't take that long to do, and can save you from ripping things out later.

Just like hand applique, with colored cotton thread you'll want to match your thread color to the color of the applique shape. If your quilt has a lot of colors, you'll need to have lots of thread colors.

If you can't find an exact match, try a neutral color (beige, tan, gray, etc.) that matches the value of the color of the shape. That might work in a pinch.

You'll also want to use as fine a thread as possible; all your stitches sit on top of the applique shape. I wouldn't use anything thicker than, say, an Aurifil or Masterpiece 50 wt thread.

I love this invisible machine applique technique because it mimics my own hand applique, for some reason I seem to be the 'queen' of the itty-bitty applique stitch. A zig-zag stitch gives me the result I'm looking for.

With cotton thread, if you aren't happy with your samples stitched with cotton thread, then I suggest trying some version of a blind hem stitch—the one that takes a few straight stitches and then a single stitch to the left that 'bites' into the applique shape. You may need to slow your machine speed down to make 'stitchingthisclose' to the shape easier and more precise. And precision will count with colored thread.

All monofilament thread is not created equal...

You mentioned that you don't care for monofilament. Personally, I haven't found a polyester monofilament that I like. They all seem too wiry to me, so I stick with the nylon versions by SewArt and YLI. This may make a difference for you, too. You can find more information about monofilament or clear thread here.

If you only want cotton thread in cotton quilts, then I respect your decision.

Debbie, I hope this information has helped you to make the best choice for your project. Do let me know how it turns out. Your thoughts and results will help other quilters facing the same decisions.


Julie Baird

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Using monofilament or cotton thread
by: Debbie Richard


Thank you so much for your answers. I'm fairly new to quilting and love the applique look and teaching myself along the way and rely on pro's like you to show me the ropes. I plan on using your techniques you told me about and see which is best for me and will let you know how it went. Again thanks for your wonderful help and quick response.

~~You're Welcome!~~


Katy, Tx
Oct 20, 2011

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